Thursday, August 25, 2011

Creating a Third Place...a Missional Community

Last year about this time I posted one of my most radical ideas and most commented pieces to date. I still believe in the power of Third Place! The ideas of creating a Missional Community are still rattling around, keep praying!

If you want to download some teaching MP3s about Missional Community from my friends at 3DM, they are available here. 

Indigenous Jesus
What A Third Place Looks Like

What would a truly indigenous community look like? It would be a "third place." A third place is defined:

“The third place is a generic designation for a great variety
of public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal,
and happily anticipated gathering of individuals beyond
the realms of home and work...” The Great Good Place

If I were to list a few essential components of a third place they would be:

The Arts! This is a generation of expression. Art speaks to the heart of who they are. One of this generation’s artistic heroes is Banksy, a mysterious graffiti artist from London. His art is more than images; it is filled with meaning, metaphor and messages that connect with the people that encounter it. Our modernist culture has reduced art to entertainment when it is so much more. Art is a prophetic expression of life. It is commentary and criticism with a paintbrush or on stage. Art is a spiritual encounter with reality.

When I do this type of worship I invite local artists, Christian and pre-Christian, to express the theme in visual arts (painting, sculpture, etc) or dramatic arts as part of the worship service. Rather than trying to copy the culture, real art creates culture. So much of “Christian art” is simply a sanctified copy of what secular artists are doing. We do not need to be afraid of letting the art speak for itself rather than trying to interpret it. An emerging community of Christ followers would be filled with art that caused people to pause and struggle with life, purpose and passion and invite them to see Christ in the struggle.

Mystery! So do you want the red pill or the blue pill (if you don't get that, watch The Matrix). This generation believes that the real world is hidden from them and they are willing to embrace the divine mystery far beyond their pragmatic Boomer parents. They know that everything can't be explained by the scientific method and they crave the sacramental embrace of the Savior. They do not shrink from the unexplainable. They know that the four simple rules of life do not come anywhere close to explaining the complexities of existing in the twenty-first century.

Worship that embraces mystery includes both powerful, sensory filled music and times of silence. It values the proclamation of the scripture, but allows times for lectio divina, the simple reading and hearing of the text without anything added or taken away. The emerging community will gather around the table of God to receive the sacrament, knowing that what happens in them and to them is beyond simplistic explanation. An emerging community of Christ followers would embrace and live with mystery.

Conversation! Conversation (blogs, discussion boards, coffee houses) are the heartbeat of spiritual discovery for this generation. Venues allowing them to receive solid teaching and then interact with it as to how they embody the gospel are essential. This is a generation unafraid of the deep teachings of scripture. They want to wrestle with the difficult texts and discover the deeper truths. They crave to live in a community where life can be lived together. They want to discuss their discoveries, hear the stories that mold other Christ followers, and find their points of intersection and points of contradiction. An emerging community of Christ would be open to engage in conversations of life, love and the difficulties of life.

Ritual! This generation craves to tap into something ancient with roots. Their lives are filled with disposable philosophies and short-term realities. They seek a deeper life and desire the experience of something that has lasted through the ages. There is even a kind of resurgence of postmodern monasticism (ie. Shane Claiborne) that has sprung up and become very popular. This is a generation that is ready to fully embrace ancient rituals if it they are well explained and clearly taught. An emerging community of Christ followers would embrace ritual as part of their ongoing spiritual journey.

Mission! This generation would rather make a difference than make a dollar. They throw themselves into their commitments with abandon. They want to change the world, they want to feed children with AIDS in Africa, find racial reconciliation in their communities and solve the problem of poverty. They are moving into marginal neighborhoods and staking a claim for justice. An emerging community of Christ followers would find ways to change their community and the world with their resources, time and talents.

If I were to be given another chance to create a "third place" I would consider a private/public partnership by starting a fair trade (social justice) coffee house that hosts artists and Christian conversation and also hosted worship every Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The coffee shop could cover operating expenses and the congregation would be free to pour their resources, time and talents into mission. See as an example.

Pastor Marty


Bill Shepherd said...

Marty, Saw Eric's reference to this on FB. Sounds to me that you are right on track on what's needed in Rocky Mount, specifically in the UMC. I think many in our area are hungry for this kind of place and worship, but we simply can't find it in our existing churches. We are held back by "tradition". I see Englewood is going to hold a "Contmporary Service" in September. This is perhaps another effort by a traditional church to offer something new and different. But we don't need another contemporary service, we need a contemporary church. We need a new place with the freedom to explore worship and service as you describe. Unless our conference wakes up, we will continue to lose a generation of beleivers to other denominations willing to change. When you are ready to start a "Third Place", let me know. I know a number of folks longing for just that.

Bill Shepherd

Lee said...

Excellent thoughts sir. Thank you for sharing them.

Marty Cauley said...


We don't need a new church, we need a new environment that reaches a new population! One that is diverse, missional, and focused. I am already dreaming, now I'm seeking the location and a team to make it happen.

Bill Shepherd said...

I agree with your vision. But a place that offers what you suggest and worship services on Saturdays and Sundays sounds like a church to me. If done well, I think such a place would draw many current believers who are hungry for this, as well as attract many unchurched who are turned off by traditional settings. Pencil me in on your "team" if/when something starts happening.

Marty Cauley said...

I guess we are discussing I see it as an extension congregation, a satellite that has a different culture and mode of worship but supported by an existing "church" to provide structure, leadership, and oversight. It would take a senior leader who is visionary and secure but I do believe its doable. I plan to meet with congregational development leaders soon to paint a picture of this vision.

Eric Ghiloni said...

Marty, I hear what you are screaming...after experiencing it first-hand in DC, I am excited by the possibilities...time to dream big!

Marty Cauley said...

The next question is "are there 10 among you?"

If I was to host a "dream dinner" how many do you think would come? A "dream dinner' is an informal gathering to consider a dream and see if it has traction to become a full fledged vision of what is to come.

Anonymous said...

If you need passionate, thoughtful singing, preaching and teaching, count me in!

Bill Shepherd said...

I could probably get 8-10 myself.

Marty Cauley said...

I have not forgotten about the Dream Dinner! I will be in touch!